Church of the Nativity

Located in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the church is considered by many to mark the birthplace of Jesus and is a primary Christian pilgrimage destination. This building is the oldest standing church in the Holy Land, and oldest Christian church in daily use. On April 2, 2002, Israeli forces entered Bethlehem as part of "Operation Defensive Shield." As fighting erupted between Palestinian gunmen and the Israeli army, a group of civilians and militants, including 13 who Israel considered to be on their most-wanted list, took refuge in the Church of the Nativity. The Israeli Army laid siege to the church, surrounding it and engaging in occasional skirmishes with militants inside the church compound. The standoff, which lasted 39 days, ended with 13 militants sent into exile, 26 gunmen taken to Gaza, and 85 policemen, local civilians and international peace activists released. In 2012, the church became UNESCO’s first World Heritage Site to be listed under the name Palestine and is also on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger. See "Church siege ending after 39 days," The Guardian, May 10, 2002; and see information about The Freedom Theatre’s 2015 play "The Siege." See also UNESCO’s website; and "UNESCO: Nativity Church heritage site in "Palestine" Tovah Lazaroff, The Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2012.